As most Americans stressed yesterday for what is commonly known as "Tax Day," locally-based Pilot Flying J was swarmed on Tax Day by approximately 30 federal and local agents while executing a search warrant at its Knoxville headquarters as part of an "ongoing investigation." Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam, father of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, stated that Pilot is "cooperating fully with authorities."
The IRS and the federal government have long been fans of moving forward with warrants, investigations, and indictments for higher profile individuals and companies near the dreaded April 15th tax filing deadline. Although this search warrant could have been executed on another day, April 15th is the most notable of tax dates, and it provides the IRS with an extra opportunity to remind the public at large that they are enforcing tax laws.
In a KnoxNews.com article, one Pilot worker commented on the IRS and FBI agents who were executing the search warrant by stating, "They didn't seem like they were on a witch hunt...They seemed like they knew what they were looking for." Oftentimes, when agents from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the IRS show up, they have been investigating the case for a lengthy period of time. The Pilot worker was likely correct in that the IRS CID and FBI agents knew exactly what they wanted to obtain long before they entered the Pilot headquarters.
In fact, to obtain a search warrant, the federal government would have been required to present "probable cause" evidence to a judge that there had been a violation of federal law, which would allow for the issuance of a search warrant. However, the issuance and execution of a search warrant does not mean that Pilot Flying J and/or its officers have done anything wrong or illegal. Undoubtedly, Pilot will take swift action to have its attorneys begin (or possibly continue) their investigation and defense of the case.
UPDATE: Since the original posting of this blog, a second search warrant has been executed today, and federal agents are continuing their efforts at the Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville, according to KnoxNews.com.